The Supreme Court has ruled that the “VIP Pass” of PPE contracts is illegal

Yesterday’s ruling was another blow to the embattled prime minister following a string of corrupt allegations. Campaign groups argued that the VIP lane was reserved for referrals from members of Parliament, ministers and senior officials, giving some businesses an unfair advantage.

A judge ruled that it was illegal to give those companies preferential treatment, which means their bids are considered more quickly.

However, she said, the two companies involved in the case likely got contracts anyway.

Good Bill and EveryDoctor took legal action worth more than £600m from contracts awarded to pest control firm PestFix and hedge fund Ayanda Capital at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

They argued that the government “prioritized suppliers including PestFix and Ayanda because of who they know, not what they can provide.”

In a ruling, Mrs. Judge O’Farrell said the use of the VIP lane, officially known as the high priority lane, is illegal.

However, it found that both companies’ offerings were “justified priority treatment in terms of their merits” and it was “highly likely” that contracts would have been awarded even without the VIP pass.

“Even if PestFix and Ayanda had not been designated for the high priority corridor, nonetheless they could have been treated as priority offers due to the large amounts of PPE that could be urgently supplied,” the judge said.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) challenged the suit, telling the court that it had “completely” dismissed the suit and that the VIP path made sense and resulted in “a significant number of credible offers” in an environment where PPE deals often fail within “minutes”. “.

Mrs. O’Farrell later said the DHSC evidence “proves that being on the high-priority lane conferred no advantage in the decision-making phase of the process”.

She continued: “However, what is clear is that the offers made through top referrals received early attention initially.

“The high priority track team was better resourced and was able to respond to such offers on the same day they arrived, unlike the Opportunity team, where the sheer volume of offers prevented such quick thinking.”

“Considering the offer over time was a material advantage in being awarded a contract, given the need for urgency,” she later said.

Jason Koppel QC, who represents the activists, previously argued that PestFix was referred to the VIP lane because the company’s former director was an “old school friend” of Steve Oldfield’s stepfather, DHSC’s chief commercial officer.

It was also alleged that Andrew Mills, a former member of the British Council of Trade and representative of Ayanda Capital, was added to the VIP lane when he contacted a senior official at the Department for International Trade.

Ms. Judge O’Farrell found that the Department of Homeland Security had complied with the duty to give “clear and sufficient reasons” for awarding the two sets of contracts and that “financial due diligence” and technical verification had been carried out.

A spokesman for former Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We are delighted that the Department of Homeland Security has won this case.

“Huge numbers were doing everything they could to get PPE to the front line as quickly as possible.”

The Good Law Project and EveryDoctor both said they are considering the implications of certain aspects of the ruling and their next steps.

Joe Maugham, Project Director of Good Law, said: “We revealed the VIP runway from the red carpet to the riches. The court has now ruled, unsurprisingly, that the route was illegal.

“No government should ever again treat a public health crisis as an opportunity to enrich its partners and donors at the government’s expense.”

Dr Julia Grace Patterson, chief executive of EveryDoctor, said: “NHS staff and other frontline workers have been woefully unsupported and unprotected by this government.

“Many of them were not provided with PPE, and many of them died. The government should never again be allowed to act in this way during a national health care crisis.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said: “We are pleased that the court ruled that our industry’s call to arms was open and transparent.”

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